After to listening to a couple of podcasts that felt as if they were intended just for me, I dusted off a manuscript I had started years ago. I was startled to realize it was already 54k words strong and I placed it on the top of my project pile.
The book’s working title is Quit Your Job, Change Your Life: 40 Life-Altering Strategies for the Disaffected. I’ve included the Introduction below.
I’m editing and finishing some of the parts of the book now and hope to have it ready in a few months time.
I welcome your comments and thoughts…
“I went into the woods to live deliberately. To front the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what they had to teach. And not, when I came to die, discover I had never lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
Each day we are faced with decisions, whether we realize it or not. Do we take the easy road, the one that is familiar and expected? Or do we veer off into the woods, create our own trail, and slog our way through the mud to a destiny of our own making?
In 2004 I started my first blog titled What the Hell Am I Doing Here?! (and Who the Hell Are You?). My weekdays were filled with sitting in a gray cubicle staring at the walls, bored to tears as I shuffled paperwork and tried to look busy. My job was easy, way too easy, and it paid me more money than I had ever earned before.
In terms of the easy road, it would have been far simpler to stay there. In many ways it was seductive – left to my own devices for hours on end I did little work and a great deal of writing, web surfing, and even my fair share of soul-searching. If money and security were all that mattered I would probably still be there.
I had lost my way. For years I had operated under the belief that if I worked hard enough, earned the right certifications and climbed the corporate ladder that all things would work out. I would find the perfect job, make a respectable amount of money, and have the things in life I was told were important. When life didn’t turn out quite as I had expected, I found myself disillusioned and depressed. I found myself far more cynical and selfish than I was comfortable with. I began to examine my life and find it wanting.
The soul-searching hit high overdrive after my father pointed me towards a writer by the name of Claire Wolfe. I read her essay Movin’ To Hardyville in which she wrote:
“You want to live in Hardyville? I’ll tell you the secret, then, that Hardyville is as real as it is imaginary…
How do you get there? If you can’t find Lonelyheart Pass, you can start in the direction of Hardyville by thinking about the way you’re living now. Are you racing like a little maze-rat, just to keep yourself in fancy toys? … Are you living vicariously, via television? Do you choose to spend your days in a little gray cube? Is your mind in a little gray cube? ……
Have you put your kids in day care, soccer and gymnastics, more than in your life? Do you hate your life, but somehow never manage to take real steps to fix it? Are you using people — or being used by them — instead of having honest relationships? When it comes right down to it, do you choose convenience over independence? Do you choose the status quo over the uncertainties of happiness? Do your deeds fail to match your words, your hopes and your ideals?
Then you’re not on the road to Hardyville. If you want to be on the road to Hardyville…turn around.”
There are times in your life when you experience something that speaks to you on the deepest level of your consciousness. It moves you, challenges you and then tugs at your sleeve insistently in the days and weeks that follow. It is that insistent voice that demands that you become more than you currently are.
When I read those words my life was irrevocably changed – they set into motion feelings I could no longer deny – that my life was not where it should be –it wasn’t fulfilling or complete and I was not the person I wanted to be.
I read the questions in Claire’s essay and found myself answering yes far too often for my comfort. I began to dream very vivid dreams at night. I will not bore you with the details of those dreams; suffice it to say that I came to believe they were an unconscious expression of my longing for change.
I daydreamed as well. I dreamed of a life far different from the one I currently had – one that had a purpose, one that was on my terms and under my direction. I was tired of working in offices shuffling mounds of paperwork back and forth and I was even more fed up with the corporate BS and cliques of gossiping co-workers I saw each day.
When my supervisor left for another department she said to me in parting, “Christine, you have got to learn to just not say anything.” It was well-intentioned advice, thoughtful even, and if I had been realistic I would have taken it. But realism meant giving up, accepting my fate, and I wasn’t ready to do that. For me, that would have been akin to dying.
I began to examine how I currently lived and then decided how I wanted to live. I was only thirty-four, but I had grown enough to realize how precious each of the remaining years of my life had become to me – I didn’t want to waste them on being unhappy anymore.
I was ready to stop and to turn around and start heading back down that long road towards Hardyville. And slowly, agonizingly slow at times, my life began to change.
I pulled my daughter out of the public school that she was so miserable in and began to homeschool her. She was in high school by this time and even though I was working full time, I could still call her and send her assignments via email. A few hiccups along the way and we settled into a good routine.
I brainstormed constantly about ways to make money while doing things that interested me. I also researched different career paths and evaluated the pros and cons of each one. I signed up for writing classes through my local community education department and pulled out several crafts projects I had begun and then abandoned over the years.
I taught myself how to re-upholster furniture, researched my different options in opening up an online business, and wrote constantly in blogs and my hardcover journals.
It was around this time that my then-teenage daughter commented, “Mom, every time I think about how I don’t have enough time to do my writing, the housework, and find a job…I see how busy you are. It makes me feel like I’m not doing anything.” I was taken by surprise by her comment, but I was enjoying myself and really getting a kick out of all the different things I was learning and achieving.
I said to her, “Honey when you find something that gets you interested and excited, I hope you will move heaven and earth to make it happen because life is way too short to not reach for your dreams.”
After nearly two years of this brainstorming, blogging, and skill-building I found myself one morning in the company conference room – stuck in another meeting that I found tedious and pointless. As if all of the walls had closed in at once, I finally realized I couldn’t take it one minute longer. I stood up in front of everyone and ignoring their shocked stares announced that I was quitting and then I walked out of the room.
I didn’t make it out of the office before I panicked. What had I done? Could I take it back? That day and the week that followed were difficult. I wasn’t ready, I didn’t have a game plan in place, and I was terrified. What in the world was I going to do?
My therapist told me that I was being very self-destructive. I heard him out, even went to a few more sessions before I fired him. He might have had a point (well of course he did – it was right on the top of his head!), but in the years that have followed I have come to believe that quitting that comfortable job with its dull gray cubicle walls and far duller days within was the best thing I ever did for myself.
I look back now and prefer to call it self-transformational rather than self-destructive. Transformation can appear destructive at times. Just think of the conversion from caterpillar to butterfly, what is left of the creature that was when the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis? The old must die to give way to the new.
That was the day that my life really began – and all the questions and stress and penniless months that followed were worth every moment of the life that I lead now. I write this now, in 2018, and I am quietly edging towards my 50th birthday. My eldest is grown and gone, and I have spent the past thirteen years crafting a life that works for me. I’ll tell you about more later, about mid-point in this book. Let’s just say that, although I knew what I wanted, it has taken a while to figure out how to get to that point, and there have been plenty of life lessons.
I am not suggesting that you quit your job – at least not yet anyway! What I am suggesting is that you need to grab a notebook full of empty pages, find a quiet place and:
- Start thinking about the life you are leading and how different it is from where you really want to be
- Brainstorm – what makes you happy? What gets you up in the morning?
- Read this book and begin to implement the suggestions and exercises in it
- Set the wheels in motion; take small steps, which grow bigger with each week or month that passes.
Eventually, your feet will stand you up and walk you out of that cubicle (or into one) and into a different world – one of your choosing.
Changing your life is not just about quitting your job, changing to a different career or starting your own business – although a good deal of this book may seem to focus on that. Changing your life is about self-examination and introspection. It is about finding the answers to what makes you happy and then repositioning your life and your focus to pursue that goal with every fiber of your being.
Make the conscious choice to change your life and use some or all of the techniques and exercises suggested in this book to re-shape it into one that is worth living.
Life is far too short to be lost or unhappy –don’t you think it’s time for a change?!